Society, Natural Resources and Environmental Policy

Discussion round

Environmental problems today are mainly caused by human activities. Population growth, land use changes, increasing traffic, globalisation, and many other factors cause dramatic changes to the environment. At the same time humans are facing the negative impacts of global and climate change – they are culprits and victims of global and climate change. These developments can only be reversed if human behaviour is taken into account and the prerequisites and determining factors of more sustainable development are better understood.

Strategic research objectives

Against this background the goal of the research area “Society, Natural Resources and Environmental Policy” is to analyse the societal, economic and legal aspects of environmental change and to develop inter- and transdisciplinary solutions to make sustainable development operable.

Political and administrative frame

The research area is directly related to European, national, regional and local policies. The analysis of policy change requires the understanding of the respective governance structures, governmental and non-governmental organisations and institutions on the different levels, as well as the analysis of individual and company behaviour. Important regulations addressed include the European Water Framework Directive, the Habitat Directive, Natura 2000, or REACH in European chemicals policy.

Main sub-fields and areas

Research questions address, inter alia, measurement of sustainability using indicators, analysis of drivers of environmental change, evaluation of existing and development of new policy instruments, development of ecological-economic models, analysis of governance structures and institutions in order to develop practical and innovative solutions for environmental policy.


The research is characterised by a problem-oriented, inter- and transdisciplinary approach. The relevant aspects of an environmental problem are considered by including the required disciplines. A stakeholder-oriented approach guarantees that stakeholder information is included at all levels of research, ranging from problem definition, definition of criteria to implementing solutions in practical policies.

  • There is a wide range of social scientific methodological approaches applied, such as valuation methods (cost-benefit-analysis and multi-criteria approaches),
  • comparative studies (qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative),
  • institutional analysis (legal analysis, policy analysis, sociological, political, economic);
  • ecological-economic modelling


In “Europe Adapts to Climate Change” PEER partners compared the national adaptation strategies of seven European countries which had adopted such a strategy before 2009 (Finland, France, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany). Comparison and evaluation were focused on the major cross-sector challenges of climate adaptation regarding i.a. science-policy-nexus, knowledge transfer and awareness raising, multilevel governance, policy integration, evaluation and review. The report depicts similarities and differences and carefully attempts to identify examples of best practices. It was published in April 2009.